Environmentalists call on McDonnell to drop offshore drilling plan
A coalition of four environmental groups is urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to drop his strong support of offshore oil and natural gas drilling off Virginia's coast.
The groups are starting a petition drive today to collect 10,000 signatures and will hold a rally Friday morning on Virginia Beach.
"Bob McDonnell, despite the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, continues to say he doesn't want to slow down one bit,'' Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
An explosion and fire April 20 on an exploratory well in the gulf left 11 workers missing and presumed dead.
McDonnell (R), who has made drilling one of his administration's top priorities, flew to Houston on Monday to tout the benefits of offshore drilling at an industry-sponsored conference. He has said that he does not want to postpone drilling but to learn from the accident off Louisiana's coast.
"Everybody understands energy exploration is an inherently dangerous business whether it's gas or oil wells, coal mines, nuclear -- all the ways we produce power are inherently dangerous,'' McDonnell said. "These things are going to part and parcel of the human experience. I think the goal now over the next couple years ... to find out what happened, and how we can make it better."
The environmentalists noted that in the weeks since the accident the California and Florida governors have withdrawn support for drilling. The Post reported earlier this week that other Virginia officials also are reconsidering their support for drilling.
"The governor's position is out of step with nearby states','' said Deborah Murray, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
She and her colleagues are encouraging McDonnell to focus more on wind energy, which the governor has said he supports.
Earlier this week, the Democratic Party of Virginia also criticized McDonnell for his stance on drilling.
"A spill of this magnitude off Virginia's coast would devastate our coastal economy and endanger the effectiveness of the world's largest Navy base at Norfolk,'' said Dave Mills, the party's executive director. "A responsible leader with the right priorities for Virginia would join Senators Webb and Warner in their common-sense approach."
President Obama vowed Friday that no expansion of offshore oil drilling would take place until federal investigations into the gulf accident are complete.
Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb said they agreed with Obama that drilling should be delayed. Warner said it was "appropriate" for Obama to delay offshore projects until safeguards are in place to prevent rig explosions like the one that caused the gulf spill, his spokesman Kevin Hall said. Webb said, "The facts must be ascertained to determine how the disaster off the Gulf Coast could have been prevented" before drilling takes place, his spokeswoman Jessica Smith said.
May 5, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell
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